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Entertainment > Movies / TV

DVD Review: The Boondock Saints
Posted by O. R. Polk, Jr. on Feb 7, 2003, 17:13

Before we get started, a few words…

Are the Pop Culture kids the bastard stepchildren of TheSmartMarks.com or what? I have absolutely no problem with the pimping, shilling and cross-promotional love-ins that take place in some of the other writers columns, but when two guys verbally felate one another but completely neglect to mention the man who is responsible for bringing them both to the attention of TSM in the first place; the guy who extended the initial invitation and an olive branch to them both, you can’t help but feel a little underappreciated and slighted. Besides, anyone in the know knows that there is more than one DVD reviewer here at TSM; one who reviews a more eclectic variety of DVDs more often than anyone else here. Check the resume. I don’t have to link you to who the “best” is, brother; you’re looking at him. As much as I’d love to punish myself by reviewing the latest “blockbuster” like The Bourne Identity or xXx, I think I’ll stick with fare that requires higher than a sixth grade education.

The Pop Culture guys at a wrestling site are already at a distinct disadvantage. We may not give out star-ratings or wax intellectual about the ramifications of Colin Farrell’s latest monster Hollywood push or Affleck and Lopez’s backstage politics, but we still put in just as much work around here as anyone else and we deserve – nay – we DEMAND the respect and recognition given the rest of the staff, dammit! Props to Jay Spree, Matt D and Edward Robbins for providing something than the same old “I hate HHH” rants around here. And the same goes for Dr. Tom and Brandon Truitt, who give us something other than the norm. So, online friendships and old petty messageboard beefs aside, put that in your collective IWC pipes and smoke it.

Oh yeah, and be sure to browse my DVD Collection or my archives, visit my messageboard and drop me a line for review suggestions.

On with the friggin’ show:



Looks like I'm gonna haveta eat my words on that "sixth grade education" remark...

Written and directed by Troy Duffy
Starring Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco and Billy Connolly
Rated R, 110 min.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


The Movie:

The Boondock Saints tells the story of Irish-American fraternal twins Connor and Murphy McManus (Flanery and Reedus). The two boys are the type of anti-heroes any red-blooded American male can get behind: they’re ruggedly handsome, hard drinkers and devoutly religious, more specifically, Catholic. When local Russian mobsters start threatening their lifestyle, (namely strong-arming a pub they like to frequent…on St. Patrick’s Day, no less) the boys decide to take action. After barely surviving a scrape with some Russian thugs with their lives, Connor and Murphy are dubbed the Saints of South Boston by the local newspapers and decide to rid the seedy Boston underworld of its criminal element. They are now the arms of divine retribution ala Bill Paxton in Frailty, except they use a plethora of assorted firearms; not an axe named ‘Otis’ to rid the world of evildoers. Mind you, I was astonished that Boston even had a criminal world at all, much less “underworld.” I mean, this is the home of Marky Mark and Bobby Brown for Christ’s sake. As word of their exploits spread, their popularity grows. This attracts the attention of eccentric FBI Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe). While tracking the vigilantes, Smecker has a crisis of conscience. While he agrees with what the Saints are doing, they are still breaking the law and he struggles with the decision of letting them operate or bringing them down to Chinatown as his job dictates.

The Exectution:

As you can see the story here is not terribly original and first-time writer/director Troy Duffy’s directorial style is even less original than his script. It seems as if every independent filmmaker today wants to be Quentin Tarantino, John Woo or in Duffy’s case, both. Woo’s long shadow is cast onto every balletic action sequence. There is ample bloodshed, plenty of slow motion shots and opera/classical music played over each of these scenes. I was waiting for a single dove to fly by or for two characters to have a Mexican standoff, guns cocked and aimed at each other’s heads any minute.

Pseudo-Biblical quotes and extreme violence aside, Duffy also employs the use of some non-linear storytelling ala QT. The audience is shown the aftermath of a bloody gun battle and then via flashback we are shown exactly how it transpired. This was actually one of the few things I enjoyed about Boondock Saints. We see the brothers about to whack another bad guy and then we fade up to Agent Smecker at the crime scene attempting to walk through and figure out what happened. As Smecker prances about, riverdancing with his portable CD player on his hip (recalling Gary Oldman’s Agent Stansfield in “The Professional”) we see what actually happened as Dafoe narrates. This device was especially enjoyable when the cops’ hypotheses were wrong. Sometimes, Dafoe even inserts himself into the action as he tells what went down at the scene of the crime.

Duffy’s script manages to add some dark humor as well, such as what happens to a cat when the brothers and a friend decide to get drunk and have guns lying about while they do it. My reaction was the same as Reedus’ when the incident occurred: “I can’t fucking believe that just happened! Oh my God!” I don’t want to spoil it, but man is it equally unexpected and hilarious. There are other times when the dark humor and smart dialogue seemed forced. For instance, during the opening credits we see the brothers at their day job at a meat packing plant. While talking to a huge mannish lesbian co-worker, Flanery offends her by saying “rule of thumb.” Right away, everything stops and everyone turns and listens while this homosexual woman gives us a history lesson and hips us to the origin of the term. The scene ends with the two brothers having to double-team the large woman in an impromptu brawl. Funny? Maybe inserted somewhere else, but not over the opening credits.

The Performances:

What sets Boondock Saints apart from the rest of the wannabe pack is the performances. The two brothers, while they are fanatical serial killers are actually nice guys who feel they are doing the right thing. (like most fanatics do. But why is it that fanatics never realize that they do just as much harm trying to wipe out the evils they are fighting against? Did it ever occur to the McManus brothers that they, too, are now murderers?) It is their love for one another that actually sets the whole chain of initial events in motion. They care for each other, they care deeply for their friends and they care enough about their neighborhood to not want to see it overrun by Russian and Italian mafiosos. Willem Dafoe is as over-the-top here as he was in SpiderMan. His openly gay FBI agent even cross-dresses at one point to get the drop on some baddies. Not only does he cross-dress but Dafoe really throws himself into the part in other ways: kissing other men, lying in bed with other men and acting like a sex-starved woman while dressed as a call girl. That, my friends, is true dedication to your craft. But why someone would even buy Dafoe as a woman is beyond me. I mean, he looked like a drag queen, not a prostitute. The bad guys here obviously aren’t the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. But every time Dafoe is on-screen, the term “scenery-chewing” doesn’t do him justice. He really sunk his teeth into a role that he could’ve easily sleepwalked through considering the movie was never going to see a wide release. That makes this turn all the more impressive to me. There are some questionable casting decisions, however. I mean, Billy Connolly as an unstoppable hitman? This is the same Billy Connolly from ABC’s “Head of the Class”, right? I wanted to laugh aloud when I saw him under the strictest supervision being transported from his jail cell. He didn’t quite inspire the same fear as Anthony Hopkins does as Hannibal Lecter even though it looks like that’s what Duffy was going for here.

The DVD:

Boondock Saints
is presented in widescreen letterbox format (2.35:1 aspect ratio), 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound with English and Spanish subtitles. The special features here are pretty plentiful considering the price of the disc (as low as $9.99 in some places). There's a commentary track with director Troy Duffy, where he talks about working with the cast and porn legends Ron Jeremy and Jeanna Fine. Oh, I didn't mention Jeremy and Fine? That's right, they're here, too. In fact, had someone told me Jeanna Fine had a cameo in this, I wouldn't have put off seeing it for so damn long. There are eight deleted scenes, mostly taken out for good reason or are just extended and a reel of outtakes. There are some discs that have an asking price of $25 or more and don't have that many extras, so you're getting a deal here.

Overall:

All in all, while it is an enjoyable outing Boondock Saints doesn’t quite live up to all the internet and fan hype it had coming in. That is due in part to its nutra-sweet and contrived “twist” of an ending that you can see coming a mile away. The last ten minutes and the footage of “on the street” interviews with Bostonians about their feelings on the Saints during the end credits could have been excised as well. Pick it up cheap on DVD but rent it first to see if it is up your alley. If you do rent or buy it, be sure to play the drinking game. It's enough to make an Irishman proud. And so is this movie.


The kids love the posters with men and guns...



 

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